Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What I Am Learning to Teach

Everyday occurrences become lessons.  I feel like I spend a lot of time teaching Haley.  Mothers of toddlers are used to this.  I am the mother of a teenager and a pre-teen.  I am still teaching them both, but differently.  I teach one of them that if she doesn't call when she says she will or doesn't answer her cell phone when I call, there will be consequences.  I teach the other one to climb in and out of the bathtub.

Last night was bath night.  Haley has a bath on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights regularly unless I have something unexpected come up.  Her Dad doesn't give her a bath anymore, it is my job.  This has been our routine for several years and it has become routine.  Something happened recently though that made me rethink our habits.

Haley's Big Sis and I had a Johnny Depp movie marathon.  We watched several of his movies that I had seen and a few that I hadn't.  One of the movies I hadn't seen was What's Eating Gilbert Grape.  The movie was disturbing in many ways, but there was one scene that has haunted me ever since.  I couldn't sleep at all the night that we watched it.

SPOILER ALERT - I have to talk about a key part of the movie to explain what was so disturbing to me, but I won't give away the ending.

Leonardo DiCaprio did an amazing job of portraying Arnie, a young man with mental disabilities.  It was never really explained what exactly his disabilities were but he was very convincing and very much like Haley.  It fell to his big brother Gilbert played by Johnny Depp to take care of him.  He did a pretty good job considering he was only a kid himself, but Arnie was occasionally left on his own to run the streets of Endora, Iowa.  His favorite pastime was climbing the little town's water tower.

The scene that haunts me had to do with Arnie's bath.  Gilbert had the responsibility of giving Arnie his bath, but he wanted to see his girlfriend so he told Arnie where his towel and his robe were and he left.  Now being a Mom to a child with disabilities it didn't take me too long to see how this was going to go.  It was still really upsetting to see that after being out all night, Gilbert returned home and fell asleep and then he awoke in the morning to find Arnie still sitting in the bathtub, shivering.

It really hit home for me.  I would never leave Haley in that situation.  I never even leave the room when she is in the tub, but I can imagine that if I wasn't there to tell her to get out or to help her get out that she would also sit in the water until it was cold.

So the next time Haley took a bath I began to teach her how to get in the tub by herself and how to get out by herself.  I have also started teaching her to pour the water on her hair.  I try to get her to feel the top of her head so that she knows if all of her hair is wet or not. 

These little things that come so easy to us, that we take for granted, these are the things that Haley needs to learn.  These are the things that I have to teach her.

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